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Press Release 10-192
Exploring Sustainability for Energy and Buildings

Engineering awards aim to advance energy storage and invigorate green building design

Back to article | Note about images

Sossina Haile (left) and William Chueh (right) stand next to thermochemical reactor for H2O and CO2.

Sossina Haile (left) and graduate student William Chueh (right) of CalTech stand next to thermochemical reactor for water and carbon dioxide dissociation. An oxide of a variable valent metal (e.g., ceria) is placed in the reactor. On heating to a high temperature, the oxide releases oxygen (as a result of thermodynamic driving forces). The oxide is then rapidly cooled and exposed to an atmosphere containing H2O or CO2. The gas re-oxidizes the oxide, releasing H2 or CO, respectively. The rapid response IR imaging furnace makes these experiments possible because rapid cooling is required to prevent reoxidation by residual oxygen. Materials showing good hydrogen or syngas production in this surrogate reactor will utlimately, through collaborations with University of Minnesota and with ETH Zurich, be utilized in a solar furnace in which the thermal energy is derived from solar concentration. Through collaborations with UCLA, structures with optimal pore structures will be fabricated of the most promising materials.

Credit: Sossina M. Haile, California Institute of Technology


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Jelena Srebric of Penn State will expand her green roof research by examining cities as a whole.

Credit: National Science Foundation

 

Image of a panel of biologically-inspired microlens array that will collect solar energy.

To improve energy management and water conservation, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley will create a system that cleans greywater while modulating the day and night temperature shifts in buildings. These walls will be specially designed with panels of biologically-inspired microlens arrays to collect solar energy (detail view of solar optic activated panel, above). While it's inside the walls, the water will be disinfected for reuse, and it also will serve as thermal storage and conduction control for the building.

Credit: Prof. Gutierrez/Prof. Hermanovicz/Prof. Lee, University of California-Berkeley


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Photo of University of Pittsburgh's Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation's LEED Gold building.

A research team based at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University have selected a spectrum of buildings to serve as case studies--new and existing, minimal to robust technology and monitoring, and commercial and residential buildings--with which to develop a culture of evidence and framework for the dynamic life cycle assessment. While they do have a net-zero energy building as a case study, the researchers are particularly interested in existing structures with limited building automation systems. While new green buildings receive attention from the media, designers, and researchers, they represent a small fraction of the existing building stock, which is currently estimated at 4.5 million commercial properties. Given the large number of existing buildings, they represent a greater opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and energy usage.

One such example is the new University of Pittsburgh's Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation's LEED Gold building (pictured above). The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) was formed in 2003 to serve as a nexus for efforts at UPitt to promote the creation of more sustainable civil infrastructure. MCSI recently moved into a new, 42,000-ft2 green facility, housing associated faculty from all engineering departments; students, common seminar and conference room space, and wet and dry labs. Some of the green features include the following: a reflective thermoplastic polyolefin, or TPO, roof on the center's addition that minimizes heat absorption; green roofs on Benedum auditorium and Benedum plaza; estimated to save 18 percent in energy costs over a similar structure of standard design; sensors that adjust indoor lighting by the level of incoming natural light; and highly efficient LED lights on exterior that contain no mercury and last ten times longer than fluorescent lighting. While this building has some level of sensors (e.g., CO2), additional sensors are needed to fully understand how the building operates.

Credit: University of Pittsburgh


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Image showing how eSkin may operate at the building scale.

Engineers, design architects, and cell biologists from the University of Pennsylvania will use the flexibility and sensitivity of human cells as the models for next-generation building "skins," designated "eSkin," that will adapt to changes in the environment, produce beautiful effects such as color change, and, most importantly, increase building energy efficiency. The image above suggests how eSkin may operate at the building scale with new construction featuring complex geometries.

Credit: Jenny E. Sabin, Sabin+Jones LabStudio (image); Shu Yang, Nader Engheta, Jan Van der Spiegel, Peter Lloyd Jones, Andrew Lucia, University of Pennsylvania


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Image of polymeric proton conducting membranes obtained by Electrochemical Atomic Force Microscopy.

This picture shows that, due to the bi-phasic nature of polymeric proton conducting membranes, only a fraction of a membrane surface is ionic conductive. Consequently, when a catalyst is applied to this surface, only part of the catalyst may be utilized. Such knowledge will be used to develop a membrane with higher surface ionic activity for use in regenerative hydrogen-bromine fuel cell systems, which can efficiently store energy. (This picture is obtained by Electrochemical Atomic Force Microscopy, a technique pioneered by PI Trung Nguyen at the University of Kansas.)

Credit: Trung Nguyen at U. Kansas/ Da-Ming Zhu at U. Missouri - Kansas City


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Photo of Michael Caramanis under a small wind generator.

Principal Investigator Michael Caramanis is pictured on the roof of the Boston University School of Education under a small wind generator representing an option for distributed energy generation. His EFRI research team will study how to integrate such renewable energy sources most efficiently through an Intelligent Building's smart microgrid.

Credit: Boston University media services and Clean Energy and Environmental Sustainability Initiative


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Photo showing electrocatalytic oxidation of the organic chemical RNO during testing.

As part of their goal to develop systems that turn wastewater into drinking water, one team will perform tests to understand how organic chemicals degrade. Pictured here is the electrocatalytic oxidation of the organic chemical RNO during testing.

Credit: James Englehardt, University of Miami


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Photo of handheld device displaying occupant activities and temperature and zoning controls.

The University of Virginia team is creating smart building technology to improve building efficiency by using information about occupant locations and activities. The handheld device shown here displays ongoing occupant activities and provides controls for temperature and zoning.

Credit: Kamin Whitehouse, University of Virginia


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